Recently I had a terrible week. Experiencing several days of difficult situations made me yearn for compassion and love from others. My family responded positively, helping me feel better with help, hugs and words of encouragement. Since that time, I've been thinking of ways to help others, even strangers, have better days. Here’s my list of eight easy ways to make someone's day.
Give a compliment
The power of positive words is immeasurable. I really enjoy it when someone says I look nice or I’m good at something. Hearing comments about my good parenting skills or my kids' achievements makes me beam. Find something nice to say and then say it. Go out of your way to speak kind words to those you meet throughout the day. Oftentimes, our spouse and children only hear about it when they've done something wrong. Give some kudos and make their day.
Help a mother
I might be a bit biased about this one because I am a mother, but helping a mother in a kind way will probably make her day. Compliment her on her well-behaved children (even if they’re not being perfect), offer to help her carry her groceries or hold open a door while she pushes a stroller through. If you’re feeling very generous, offer to babysit for a young mother. She’ll appreciate the opportunity to do something for herself, even if it’s as simple as taking an uninterrupted shower.
Buy someone flowers
Most people enjoy the gift of flowers. I like to bring flowers to friends and acquaintances quite often. Sometimes they are flowers from my yard, and sometimes I go for an inexpensive bouquet or buy a small potted plant. Giving someone flowers makes them feel extravagant and special. Flowers from her sweetheart will make a wife weak in the knees. They are a gift that lasts several days.
Let someone go first
Letting someone go first should be easy, but often we are so rushed that we focus only on our own schedules and destinations. Try this. Spend one day letting others go first. Let a car merge into your lane while driving, stop for pedestrians, don’t race to the check out at a store and hold the door for others. You’ll find yourself feeling generous, polite and happy. Letting others go first is a habit I am trying to cultivate on a regular basis. It helps me learn patience and to be aware of others wherever I am.
Do a task for someone
This idea works great in families and with colleagues. Make someone’s day by taking over one task from their workload. I like to offer to do dishes for my children on occasion, leaving them more downtime. I don’t work with others in an office, but I do help out my fellow Cub Scout den leader by offering to bring the snack or take on more of the planning for our den meetings. It’s nice to help others, particularly when you see someone who is overwhelmed. I offer to put our children to bed even when it’s my husband’s turn when he looks especially tired.
Getting unexpected mail, in whatever form, always makes my day. I like receiving thank you cards, notes and even texts, from friends and family. Taking the time to write personal messages and mail them shows you care about the recipient. One year I had a goal to write a note a week. While I didn’t meet my goal of 52 notes, those I did send made me feel good. I heard positive feedback from many of the people I sent notes to.
Offer to help
It’s amazing how simply offering to help can make someone’s day. Offer to help carry something for a stranger, or get an item off a shelf at a store. Ask your child if he or she needs help with homework or a project, or if your spouse would like help with a home improvement project. Offer to help someone move, take an older person to a doctor’s appointment or volunteer in a classroom. I recently offered to help grade papers for my daughter’s language arts class. As a former English teacher, I felt qualified, and her teacher was so grateful for the help. Find someone who needs help and offer your assistance. It will make their day.
Give a gift
I’m using the word gift very loosely here, because gifts don’t have to be objects with monetary value. A smile can be a gift, as can your time. A child might appreciate 20 minutes of playtime over a new toy. Of course, small gifts can make people feel loved and appreciated as well. I often pick up jewelry, office supplies and other small items on clearance to use as gifts for friends who need a pick-me-up. Giving a gift with a personalized note is a nice way to show you care. When I receive gifts of time or small tokens of love, it definitely makes my day.
Now that you’ve read my top eight ways to make someone’s day, I challenge you to give it a try. Start with your family if you’d like, but then go out and look for ways to help others. Kindness is catching, and making someone else’s day will make yours as well.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.